The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

“Womanliness therefore could be assumed and worn as a mask, both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to posses it. . .” (Rivière, 133)

Joan Rivière in her essay, “Womanliness as a Masquerade” coined the term “masquerade” used in relation to a woman’s gender identity;when in the simplest terms she meant that femininity is a performance. It does not answer questions like: “what do women do in order to be feminine?” Where the answer would be:”they put on make up, nice clothes, flirt, etc.” For her the ideas of masquerade and femininity are presumed as a metaphor for being socially successful. Women wear a mask in order to be accepted in a social world codified by men.

Rivière gives examples of some of her patients where in order for them to be feminine they require to have plenty of male features as well. But she implies that in order to be feminine the women should play the game of a fragile, flirtatious, coquette girl, but that there is no actual femininity behind this game. Although her examples are great and portray common everyday
scenarios,the concepts of the “woman masquerade” or “feminine performance” are enacted by celebrities like Kim Kardashian that have built their fame on exaggerated performances of femininity.

Kim is a non talented reality tv star: it is in enacting the poses of femininity that she excels. Her appearance, overtly sexed self, hopeless romantic act, and somewhat dimwitted persona, portrays
not the specifics of the feminine role but the artificial parts of femininity itself. Kim exemplifies Rivière’s theory of the “masquerade”. Rivière contests: “Women who wish for masculinity may put on a mask of Womanliness to avert anxiety and the retribution of men.” (Rivière, 132) Rivière states that one of the patients felt drawn to “ogling and coquetting” after publicly demonstrating her intelligence. Kim’s career is made out of “ogling and coquetting” but it conceals the masculine characteristics of ambition, drive, and business acuity, behind the excessive femininity.

Her successful brand sells everything from perfume to dietary supplements. The feminine mask that defines her public persona creates a separation between her body and business oneness. However, Riviere’s theory goes beyond the simple idea that Womanliness may be put-on as a mask to hide masculine characteristics. She claims that there is no distinction to be drawn between “genuine Womanliness” and the “masquerade”, but that “they are the same thing”; in her reasoning femininity is a dissimulation. The relationship between the public and private persona that Kim demonstrates seems to support the conception of femininity as a performance.


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